Past issues

Equal Opportunity Commissioner's e-bulletin October 2017

by EOC | Nov 06, 2017

October 2017

Supporting safe schools


Commission Services Manager Diana MacTiernan discussed equal opportunity laws relating to LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) students and teachers as a panellist for the Safe Schools Coalition panel at Presbyterian Ladies College on 21 September.

The discussion was a question and answer format between the five panellists and an audience of about 100 teachers, parents and students.

Ms MacTiernan was asked how Western Australia compared to other states and territories when it came to equal opportunity laws for gender diverse people in schools.

“Western Australia, to put it in school terms, would receive a D minus when it comes to equal opportunity laws for trans and gender diverse people in schools, as we really need to try harder,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan said while the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 was one of the first to include gender history back in 2000, its limitation was it only applied to people with a gender recognition certificate, which trans people in most states and the Commonwealth did not have to provide.  

She said while students have the protection of the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA), the logistics of taking a complaint federally made it difficult for people in WA.

Also state and public sector workers, including teachers, had no protection when they were transitioning because the SDA specifically excluded them.

“WA’s equal opportunity laws really put trans people in the state’s school system at a huge disadvantage,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan also spoke about the Commission’s involvement with the development of the Guidelines for supporting sexual and gender diversity in schools (the Guidelines).

“The Commission developed the Guidelines because when it consulted with the LGBTI community, they said bullying towards gender and sexually diverse students in schools was the single biggest issue,” she said.


Christian school breached religious discrimination laws

Melton Christian College (MCC) discriminated against a five-year-old Sikh boy, Sidhak Singh Arora, when it decided to not admit him as a student if he did not cut his hair and wear his patka to cover it, according to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

MCC argued that its uniform policy was not unlawful because it was neutral with the aim of treating all students equally by not allowing headwear. 

It also claimed the uniform policy was protected by exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (the Act) because it was a Christian school.

VCAT Member Grainger found the policy disadvantaged the boy as he could not access the emotional and social advantages associated with attending a school that his cousins also attended, or the practical advantages associated with attending a school close to where his working parents, and aunty and uncle, could help with school drop-offs and pick-ups.

Member Grainger also found MCC’s uniform policy was unreasonable because it prohibited the wearing of a patka and required boys to have short hair, which indirectly discriminated against Sikh students.

Member Grainger said while the college was a Christian school, it had an open enrolment policy with over 50 percent of the school community not identifying as Christian.

“It is not reasonable to accept enrolment applications from students from non-Christian faiths only on the condition that they do not look like they practice a non-Christian religion,” Member Grainger said.

Member Grainger also agreed with Ms Holt, representing the Aroras, that it would not be unreasonable for the college to allow Sidhak to wear a patka in the same colour as the uniform.

The parties agreed at the hearing that if the Tribunal found MCC had contravened the Act, proceedings should be set down for a further compulsory conference to enable the parties to attempt to reach an agreement in relation to what orders, if any, the VCAT should make under the EO Act.

As it was found that the college had contravened the Act, Member Grainger directed the principal registrar to list the proceedings for a compulsory conference on a date and time to be conducted by another VCAT member.

To read the full decision click here or read the news article in the Age on our Face book page here


Dealing with gurglers, gropers and grannies at the Anna Stewart Memorial Program

Commission Services Manager Diana MacTiernan gave a presentation to a group of women union members on 11 September as part of the Anna Stewart Memorial Program.

The program aims to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence of women union members, empowering them to be actively involved in the workplace.

“My presentation was titled Dealing with gurglers, gropers and grannies as it refers to the main obstacles women face when trying to maintain, or progress a career.

“Caring roles, whether for children or elderly parents, is often left up to women; so that, and being the main targets of sexual harassment in the workplace, makes working life for women a lot harder than it should be,” Ms MacTiernan said.

Ms MacTiernan took the audience through equal opportunity laws, indirect and direct discrimination and how to lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

She then went on to discuss sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and family responsibility discrimination.

 “According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 49 percent of mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work and one in four women have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last five years,” Ms MacTiernan said.

She said statistics like that were shocking and showed women had to remain vigilant when dealing with their rights at work.

“Through understanding their rights, women have better tools to deal with discrimination and harassment at work if it happens to them,” Ms MacTiernan said.  


More free training at the Commission

There are still places for two free training sessions at the Commission.

On 11 October, the Recruitment and Selection – Are you getting it right? course will be held from 9.30am to 4.30pm and on 21 November, the Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law course will be held from 9.15am to 1.15pm.

Both sessions will be held at the Equal Opportunity Commission on Level 2, 141 St Georges Terrace Perth.

If you would like to enrol in either or both sessions contact the Commission on 9216 3900 or by email at


What's coming up

The Commission’s Training Calendar from July to December 2017 is now available. You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page

October 11          FREE EVENT Recruitment and Selection – Are you getting it right?

October 17          Sexual Harassment - Know where the line is

October 24          Contact Officer Role       

Please contact us on 9216 3900 if you are interested in organisation specific training or for a rights based session for your clients or community members.